Recipe: Asparagus and Haloumi Toasties

I love the word ‘toastie’.  I’m not at all sure I know what it means, mind you, and I’m fairly certain it doesn’t mean what I’m currently calling it, but it’s a great word.  So I am going to gleefully misuse it for the time being, and will choose to assume that it means ‘a toastie thing with grilled cheese on it’.  So there.

I’ve been under the weather for most of this week, and after a few days of this, I tend to start getting depressed as well.  At around day four of any malady, I start assuming that the pain will not ever stop, that I will feel sick and miserable for the rest of my life, that this is it.  And then I start contemplating the fact that when I was about seventeen, I had this very vivid belief that I would be dead before I was forty.  And I’m now thirty-eight.  Yep, less than two years to go.  This is clearly The Beginning Of The End.

And so that’s what the inside of my head looks like right now.  Well, not right now, or I’d be curling up with my head under the doona again, but for most of the last few days.  As of about an hour ago, I started suspecting that, in fact, I might live.  Which is almost certainly the benign outcome of all the asparagus I had for dinner.

Anyway, you are probably here for the toasties and are wondering why you were just treated to the dark side of my somewhat neurotic psyche.  I’m sorry.  I don’t actually know the answer to that question, either.  I suspect you are just lucky.

The point is, however – and yes, I do have a point – that toasties are one of the best foods to make when you aren’t feeling very flash.  Any meal that can be prepared in under ten minutes is a meal that is your friend.  If it contains melted cheese (the definition of comfort food), it is your very good friend.  And if you manage to make it so that you shoehorn a whole lot of vegetables into the meal, too, in a handy, minimal-preparation format, it is not just your very good friend, but your very good friend that might actually be providing you with some useful vitamins.

This is my favourite kind of edible friend.  (Note: most of my friends are not edible.  I assume.  I haven’t been going around nibbling to find out.)

And vegetable-infested cheese on toast is one of my favourite kinds of meal.  This one is especially good, of course, because it contains asparagus.

And that right there would probably have been introduction enough, without any of the neuroses.  Then again, if you were looking for concise introductions and no neuroses, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place…

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Four slices of good bread (sourdough is good, but if you found beetroot bread at the deli, that is even better, because it is PINK.)
2-3 tablespoons of hummus
2 roasted red peppers
12 nice, fat asparagus spears
olive oil
salt, pepper
1 big handful of baby spinach (about 50 g)
8 thick slices of haloumi cheese (about 150 g, but that really is a guess)

Now what will you do with it?

Start grilling the bread.  Maybe get someone else to do this if your head is foggy, as it wants to burn (the bread, not your head, though they do rhyme).  You want it lightly toasted on both sides, but not burned.

Meanwhile, snap off the ends of your asparagus spears, wash the spears, and then split them in half lengthways, so that they can lie flat, and then cut them in half the other way so that they will fit in the pan.  That was a terrible description, but my head is still foggy and I have forgotten how to speak English.  Sorry.

Toss the asparagus into a pan with the oil, salt and pepper, and sauté on high heat for a minute or two, until bright green and lightly cooked.  Transfer to a plate.

Rinse the spinach and throw it into the pan that just had the asparagus in it.  Cook until it is wilted, then transfer to a plate.

Put the haloumi slices into the pan, and grill them for a couple of minutes on each side (ie, until golden), while you prepare the rest of the toastie.

Your bread should be done by now, so put two slices on each plate, and spread with hummus (the bread, not the plate, though they don’t rhyme).  Divide the spinach between the four slices, and then line up the asparagus spears on top of the spinach.  It will look pretty cute.  You may have too much asparagus.  Cook’s privilege says you get to eat it, but if you are feeling kindly, you could put it on the side of the plates as an extra bonus asparagus feature.

Slice the roasted peppers, and divide between the slices of bread.

By now, your cheese should be nicely grilled.  Pop two slices of cheese on each piled up toast and vegetable stack, and serve at once.  Oddly enough, this arrangement is fairly structurally sound and you can eat your open sandwich-toastie things with your hands, but you will want some paper towels, as the juices go everywhere.  Really, everywhere.

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Variations

This recipe is vegetarian, nut-free, egg-free, and as gluten-free as the bread you choose.  It’s glycemic index is also as good as the bread you choose, so choose wisely!  For those avoiding fructose, my understanding is that neither the asparagus nor the hummus will do you any good, and I’m sorry, but to my mind asparagus is the entire point of this meal, so I’m afraid that lets you out.  For vegans and those avoiding dairy, you could play around with vegan cheezes, and I suspect that the right marinated tofu recipe might also work for you.  Or a glorious grilled portobello mushroom would also do the trick, I’d say.  If you are dairy intolerant but not vegan, a poached egg on top of all this would be marvellous, but also not something you could eat with your hands.

As for flavour variations, you could use pesto or tahini or another dip instead of the hummus, of course, and sliced tomatoes would be lovely instead of the roast peppers, if you have them to hand.  Nothing else comes to mind, but as I said, I’m a little foggy today.  And, to be honest, I loved this just as it was and don’t want to change it…

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